Here There Be Science; Here There Be Dragons!

Chapter 9: God of Tyranny

Our heroes determine that the first thing they want to take care of is the Sweetmeat Factory. They want to know who took their factory and why they aren’t getting any more profits from it. The party travels to Wozington once again, and they visit Leo for information. He didn’t have much to say, besides that he was happy to see the party after a year-and-a-half absence. He also didn’t know very much about the Sweetmeat Factory’s leadership, but it’s running as usual, so he’s not concerned.

It is worth saying here that Booth decided to retire from adventuring. He had set out to make a living and to kill Reem. Now that Reem is gone, Booth can take his tremendous fortune and make a good living for himself. So, today he has separated from the party (the player who played Booth is still in the game, and he created a new character, Nobu, who will appear later in this chapter). Slade has also left the party, having received a lead to the exact whereabouts of the mountain orc clan that destroyed his village. With vorpal blade in one hand, giant longsword in another, and the destruction of a giant and two dragons under his belt, Slade leaves the party to complete his life’s mission. Slade may retire afterwards as well, with his quarter of a million gold from Reem’s cave.

While in Wozington, the players meet two new adventurers, a gold dragonborn paladin named Norixius Brangar, and a blind magical samurai named Rahm. The dragonborn, often called Bran, was raised with a hatred for orcs and any other evil of injustice in the world. Rahm made a deal with a devil for his magical abilities, and hopes to win back his soul by destroying the fiend with the very power he received. These two adventurers decide to join the party to the Sweetmeat Factory.

The factory is running smoothly and normally. Jawbreaker is once again situated at the front doors as a guard with his lollipop mace. When the party arrives at the top floor, they find Elphabon in charge. Was anyone surprised? Not entirely. Elphabon greets them with a warm smile, almost like it’s been way too long since they’ve tried to kill or incarcerate him. BetterBorn and Jerome, now sick and tired of dealing with this thorn of a drow, unleash all of their power on him. BetterBorn subdues him with a mighty spike attack, and Jerome slashes at Elphabon as BetterBorn pours acid onto the drow’s face. Elphabon, down to his last painful breaths, chokes out, “why?” BetterBorn and Jerome didn’t feel any explanation was necessary. One final shotel slash from Jerome, and Elphabon life came to an end. The players decide to take the drow’s body to the Judiciary to collect one final reward for their bounty.

The party goes up the mountain to get to the Capitol. This time, however, they have a dragonborn with them. Rahm was human, so he would get through with no problem, but Mr. Suur wouldn’t let Bran through. BetterBorn had a rather clever idea. Before reaching the checkpoint, he had Bran drink a potion of gaseous form. Bran’s misty form was compressed into BetterBorn’s metal hat, concealing him from Mr. Suur. As always, Jerome disguised himself as an old man. Mr. Suur gave them no problems.

At the Judiciary, the players slam Elphabon’s body onto the dwarf clerk‘s desk. Ilde (she didn’t have a name until one of the players asked for it today) is shocked and distraught at the mess the adventurers have made. But, business was business, and she had the players collect their reward (again, 20.000 gold). She then summoned some guards to take the criminal’s body off her desk. As a few guards undertook this task, with others looking on, BetterBorn’s potion of gaseous form expired. Bran’s full physical form emerged from the hat and slammed BetterBorn to the ground. Everyone is shocked, and four guards surrounded the “filthy lizard man” in armor, ready to take him to prison. Through Jerome and Rahm’s magic, as well as BetterBorn’s Tesla coil, the players were able to cause enough distraction (indoor rain combined with a stink cloud) to get everyone, Bran included, safely away.

The party takes refuge in Yarjerit’s abandoned library. They suspect that Yarjerit, Arjan, and Sporck have been kept in the Capitol prison inside the Judiciary. They decide to go on a mission to rescue them. Jerome, disguised as a Judiciary guard on his first day of work, takes Rahm with him, under the premise of taking a troublesome blind beggar to jail. BetterBorn comes under a cloak of invisibility. Ilde lets them through, directing them downstairs to the jail cells (“Go down the second staircase to your right, then two lefts, a right, middle fork, the next two rights, and its’ the fourth hallway to your left.”). Jerome and Rahm easily make it down there, and Jerome strikes a conversation with one of the guards by the jail cells. The guard is easily fooled and unlocks a jail cell with one empty cot. The other cot is occupied by Arjan. In the next cell over, Sporck is having a friendly chat with an oni named Nobu. As Jerome distracts the guard, Rahm and BetterBorn rescue Arjan, Sporck, and Nobu from jail. Soon, all seven characters are safe inside Yarjerit’s library.

Arjan explains that Yarjerit is no where to be found. A number of months ago, Yarjerit (taking Arjan and Sporck with him) visited the government court to try to reason with the officials and perhaps put a stop to the all-out racism that Borack is causing to spread throughout the Capitol. This came to a head when Yarjerit attempted to call a swarm of meteors down upon Borack and the other corrupt officials. According to Arjan’s eyewitness account, nothing happened. The spell didn’t work at all. At that moment, Yarjerit disappeared, and no one has any idea where he went.

Jerome leaves to gather information about the seat of Capitol government, including the whereabouts of Borack’s chambers, as the other party members wait for him. During this time, the players notice that the entire city is preparing for Springfest, which is an annual holiday with decorations, parades, discounts in the marketplace, and usually a speech from the head of government to celebrate the beginning of the spring season. BetterBorn and Jerome remember the ominous stanza spoken by the clockwork black dragons they’ve encountered in the Western Fortress and in the Sweetmeat Factory:

“Yet soon the vernal sun shall fail,
We’ll fill the bitter flagons,
When all the world will weep and wail:
‘Here, there be dragons!’”

The party anticipates an impending arrival and destruction of dragons upon the Capitol.

The next day, the day of Springfest, is a jovial an joyous day in the Capitol. A few of the players decide to visit Pith for a couple more weapon upgrades, especially since Arjan, Sporck, and Nobu each lost their weapons when they were taken to prison. Pith fashions whips, a lance, and a halberd from superior metal. Before the party leaves, BetterBorn turns to Pith and asks him to take care of himself today, since something bad might happen. Pith wasn’t worried about himself, and didn’t think anything bad would happen.

Famous last words, right?

The party comes upon a crowded public square overlooked by a balcony from the Capitol Government building. Borack the Great enters the balcony, causing an eruption of cheers. The players have often been curious how Borack could have so much influence in causing the civilized people to despise members of uncommon races, especially when he was half-orc himself. Also, what is Borack’s motive?

It turns out that Borack looks very much like a common human, though his orc side has made him larger and his features more brutal and rugged. But his skin is very pale, with tiniest tint of orcish green. The crowd is silent as Borack speaks. He speaks of springtime, and the glorious privilege it is to be alive in the Capitol. He speaks of the accomplishments made by him and the people of the Capitol to “banish the uncommon filth among us.” Loud cheers follow. Borack continues, but this time with a grave expression:

“Yes, this is a blessed time of peace. But it is also a time of war, war against the unnatural and uncommon, war against the unclean.” More cheers, but much more subdued as the audience is transfixed to every word Borack says. He continues,

“There is no better place nor time to begin this war than right at this place, on this very day. Today, the war has begun.” As he speaks, the players notice a slight tremor in the air around them. The tremor becomes more intense, and some party members realize that the tremor is magical. Whatever was going to happen, is going to happen now.

In the sky, directly above the crowded square, a dark hole opens in the sky. The portal grows wider and wider, blocking the light of the sun above it. In the shadow, everyone in the Capitol sees the portal, its growing size like the yawn of some destructive beast. Out of the portal, dozens of monsters, dragons, giants, and beholders burst through, flying over the Capitol and dispersing in many directions throughout the Material Plane. Borack looks up at the sky, arms outstretched, and grins.

Acting quickly, Jerome uses his magic to try to close the portal. He succeeds, but as the portal slowly recedes, a powerful force draws the entire city towards it, as if a giant cosmic vacuum were trying to take the Capitol itself. Indeed, the city is uprooted from its mountain peak and hurdles upwards through the closing portal into the sea of misty space on the other side.

The players realize that the Capitol, and all of its inhabitants, are stuck in the Astral Plane. This plane is filled with mist, pools of color, and empty space. The color pools are portals to other planes, other worlds, and only one of them could lead them back to their home world. The players attack Borack with projectiles and firebolts. Borack does nothing, but takes all the damage and the blasts carry his motionless body through a silver portal.

The people in the Capitol are in a panic. Some, including the players, realize that they can fly around in this plane at will. Gravity is reduced in this place as well. The players decide to go into the government building to find Borack’s quarters for clues about these recent events. Jerome leads the party to the right room, and they don’t find much, only a few ambiguous letters and an ornate treasure chest. Naturally, they open the chest and find it bottomless inside. They realize this could be a portal to whoever Borack might be working for. They all jump in (Bran was reluctant, but didn’t have any better ideas), falling down, down, down, then up, up, up into another room in a castle. The party leaves the room and finds the entire castle deserted, so they go outside to figure out where they are.

Outside, the party sees hundreds of enormous iron cubes floating in space. Every so often, two of them would collide, the deafening sound echoing through the space to join the echos of past collisions and conflicts. They can also see armies of skeletons in endless battle with orcs. On a far-off cube in the distance, the party sees a tall iron tower. Those who went to Mechanus are reminded of the Spire of Primus and the party decides to go to the tower.

They jump, even float, from cube to cube to get to the tower, which is just as devoid of life as the castle they were in. The party does run into a few skeletons, but they are of no help since all they care about is war, endless battle against the Orcs of Grummsh. At the very top of the tower, the adventurers find a large set of iron double doors. On the left door is engraved three triangles in a tight formation, all pointed down. On the other door is engraved a five-pointed star with curved points. Bran recognizes the two symbols: the one on the left is the symbol of Asmodeus, the God of Tyranny. On the right is the symbol of Tiamat, the evil five-headed dragon queen, a god of war and trickery. The party opens the door.

They enter a large chamber dominated by a huge iron golem at the wall opposite the door. Two smaller stone guardian golems stand motionless on either side. In front of the iron golem is a man with wavy black hair, a goatee, and a mustache, wearing an elegant robe decorated with triangular patterns. He seemed a little surprised at the intrusion, but he smiles and welcomes the party to the Infernal Battlefield of Archeron. The players continue to talk with this commanding figure and learn several new things.

The man’s name is Asmodeus, the God of Tyranny. Bran recognizes the name, having heard of it in his religious studies (Bran studied at a monastery that worshiped Moradin, God of Knowledge, and revered Bahamut, the good dragon god), and he has a hard time holding back his desire to attack. Asmodeus is clearly behind the organization of The Fury (his “little side project,” as he affectionately called it), but he refused to give away his evil plans so easily. He also turned to Rahm and realizes that he remembers meeting the blind man before. Asmodeus was the very devil who gave Rahm his powers, and now Rahm has joined Bran in hatred for Asmodeus and silently vows to destroy the evil god, now that he has a voice associated with his notorious benefactor.

Eventually, Bran could hold his rage no longer. He takes his sword out to swing at Asmodeus, who stops the blade calmly with one hand. The God of Tyranny then snaps his fingers and the iron golem comes to life, raising its fist to crush our heroes. Reacting quickly, BetterBorn gets the party to join hands and he takes them away from Archeron and back to the Astral Plane where the Capitol is still floating in misty space, just seconds before the giant iron fist would have annihilated them.

Now the party is resolved to put an end to Asmodeus’ evil plans, along with Asmodeus himself. But, unsure of what to do, they try to find a way to deal with the monsters that escaped into their home world. They try to go through the silver portal, the same portal that Borack’s body drifted through. When they realize this portal leads back to the Material Plane, seeing Borack’s broken body on the ground in a forest, the players convince the citizens of the Capitol to go through the portal as well.

The portal was situated in the sky above a forest just north of Capitol mountain (which now has an empty peak in the absence of the Capitol itself). They actually hoped that many citizens of the Capitol, who they regard as racist against uncommoners, would fall through the portal to their deaths (I was surprised that the players had such animosity towards the ordinary citizens, most of whom were not nearly as racist as they thought). However, the portal was such that anyone who entered the portal fell gently and slowly from the sky to the ground. Borack’s broken body was the result of the projectiles and firebolts aimed at him earlier.

So our (at least slightly chaotic) group of heroes return to the Material Plane, with the hopes that they can wipe out the monsters that now populate the plane and eventually confront Asmodeus again to destroy him and the evil he represents.

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